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Co-founders Noah Holton-Raphael, Max Bahramipour, and Jack Biebel launched the Los Angeles-based delicatessen, Ggiata, in homage to their Jersey roots. “Ggiata is a representation of the nostalgia we had growing up and our favorite foods,” Biebel told Square. The company name is a play on the Italian word “passeggiata,” which describes a leisurely evening stroll that families often take to catch up with neighbors.
Longtime hometown friends, the trio grew up together in Montclair, New Jersey, which they’ve dubbed the deli capital of the United States. In 2018, they moved to Los Angeles as new college graduates, and shortly after, they started what would eventually become the East Coast-inspired deli as a passion project.
“We tried all the delis that our friends from Jersey, New York, the tri-state area said were like home when we moved to Los Angeles. Nothing felt like what we were used to.” After spending a lot of time making sandwiches and testing recipes in their Venice home, they first opened Ggiata as a cloud kitchen in June 2020.
The team has since grown Ggiata into a multi-location brick-and-mortar deli. They opened their first storefront in Melrose Hill in 2021. To strengthen their connection with the larger LA community, the team opened two more storefronts in West Hollywood in 2022 and Venice Beach in 2023. For the founders, embarking on the venture without a restaurant background didn’t come without challenges. By honing complementary skill sets and leveraging Square restaurant technology, however, they’ve propelled their business forward, capturing the attention of USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Eater.
The secret to staying good friends and founders? Supporting other’s strengths
For the Ggiata team, navigating how to go from one operating model to the next—running a cloud kitchen, opening a restaurant, then operating multiple locations—was a massive hurdle. “We’re still learning as we go,” explained Bahramipour. “Our biggest hiccup is knowing how to learn on the fly, how to grow a staff, scale. None of us have a real restaurant background.”
To overcome this, the founders divided up duties that best aligned with their skill sets. Holton-Raphael oversees business development and runs daily operations, managing a staff of 40–50 employees across locations. Bahramipour focuses on the design, ensuring each new location feels unique to the neighborhood. And Biebel tackles financial performance. Early on, this meant answering questions like “Is there enough money to open the store tomorrow?” but more recently he’s focused on using different learnings from each location to guide decision-making that supports the business’s overall growth.
“I think we’ve been really fortunate to prove the saying, ‘Don’t do business with friends wrong,’” Biebel told Square. “It’s been really fun to work with my best friends. In part because, as similar as we are in some ways, I think our skills are very complementary.”
Clear role responsibilities and high trust for each other help Ggiata run like a well-oiled machine. With less time focused on daily tasks, the team has more room to zero in on niche opportunities for business differentiation and growth. Offering merchandise like hats, t-shirts, and work jackets, for example, sets Ggiata apart from other neighborhood delis. Biebel explained, “Merch is a great opportunity to get our brand in front of an audience that maybe we wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Handling high order volumes with ease — however they come in
While having a strong team dynamic is essential, to be able to pursue growth opportunities like additional revenue streams and location expansion, the Ggiata team also needed restaurant technology that’s streamlined, easy to use, and scalable.
“We started using Square as soon as we opened our first brick-and-mortar restaurant, explained Holton-Raphael. “A customer comes in, takes their order at the Square POS terminal; it’ll shoot the order back to our Square kitchen display system when the order is ready, and it will text the customer using the Square Text Messaging feature. So really, Square is keeping the lights on.”
Managing online and in-person orders can be tricky, especially during peak weekend hours. To keep customer satisfaction levels high, it’s important to make sure guests get their food in a reasonable amount of time and address in-person orders quickest. “The KDS is a really great way to triage that. Our team can go in really quickly, organize based on how long things have been waiting, and make sure they’re addressing the order that needs to go out the soonest,” explained Biebel.
Communicating order status with guests is easy, too. “We use the new Square Text Messaging feature because this is a small space and on the weekends it gets really busy. That allows our customers to go and take a walk, go to the beach, spend fifteen or twenty minutes, and then receive a text message when their order is ready. Nobody’s waiting around, wondering whether we forgot their food or not. Given the volume we do out of this location, it would be really hard to operate without that text messaging feature.”
Fueling future growth with connected restaurant technology
As Ggiata has scaled, having technology that has flexed with the business has made all the difference. The process of setting up a new store’s POS and KDS systems, for instance, just takes the team 45 minutes. And the team can easily manage multiple menus and access payment flow across multiple locations. “It’s been, I think, really easy to teach our staff to utilize both the in-store register features, but also manage our online orders, which is a huge part of our business,” said Biebel.
At times, the team may sell out of merchandise within a few days. Yet having the ability to track inventory automatically within the Square registers has made the process easy Biebel explained. “The integration between the online and in-person has been probably one of the biggest strengths for us being able to manage it all together. The Square software is really like the backbone of our business. It’s the central place of commerce.”
Despite all the growth Ggiata has amassed over the last four years, the team doesn’t plan on slowing down soon. Today, they’re planning for a fourth location to open up in Highland Park. “Opening new stores is our best customer acquisition tool, and Square has been what’s made that possible,” said Biebel.